National Knowledge Commission
Knowledge has been recognised as the key driving force in the 21st century and India’s ability to emerge as a globally competitive player will substantially depend on its knowledge resources. Keeping this scenario in mind, the National Knowledge Commission (NKC) was constituted in June 2005 by the government of India under the chairmanship of Mr. Sam Pitroda to prepare a blueprint for reform of knowledge related institutions and infrastructure which would enable India to meet the challenges of the future. The objectives of NKC were to:
- Build excellence in the educational system to meet the knowledge challenges of the 21st century and increase India’s competitive advantage in fields of knowledge.
- Promote creation of knowledge through Science & Technology.
- Improve the management of institutions engaged in Intellectual Property Rights.
- Promote knowledge applications in Agriculture and Industry.
- Promote the use of knowledge capabilities in making government an effective, transparent and accountable service provider to the citizen and promote widespread sharing of knowledge to maximise public benefit.
- Promote traditional knowledge in health and other fields.
- In the current scenario command over the English language is an important determinant of access to higher education, employment possibilities and social opportunities. NKC therefore recommended that the teaching of English as a language should be introduced, starting from Class I. NKC also focused on the need to reform the pedagogy of English language teaching and the use of all available media to supplement traditional teaching methods.
- In a multilingual country like India, in order to make knowledge available to different linguistic groups, translation of learning material to different languages is necessary. NKC therefore recommended setting up a National Translation Mission.
- Revamping of library and information services.
- The key to successful research today demands live consultations, data and resource sharing. NKC has recommended the establishment of a National Knowledge Network connecting all knowledge institutions in various fields.
- School Education: After success of UEE, NKC recommends universalization of secondary education. NKC has proposed to encourage decentralisation, local autonomy in management of schools, and flexibility in disbursal of funds. Introduction of ICT in school education, improving school infrastructure with a greater role for local stakeholders and greater transparency in the system have been recommended.
- Higher Education:In higher education, Recommendations of NKC are as follows:
- a. Expansion of higher education: Establishment of greater number of higher education, including restructuring of the existing ones. For expansion of higher education, NKC recommended diversifying the sources of financing to encourage private participation, philanthropic contributions and industry linkages. Since government cannot provide education for all, private institutions should be allowed to open up in order to increase educational opportunities for all.
- b. Greater autonomy for institutions of higher education.
- c. Constitution of Independent Regulatory Authority of Higher Education (IRAHE): NKC observed that sometimes there can be clash between different agencies of higher education. Therefore they should be merged into one agency. Multiple regulatory authorities should be done away with. The role of the new authority should be advisory. It will not be a monitoring body but will play only supervisory or recommendatory role.
- d. While the government heavily subsidises university education by keeping fees low, there is better value created for this subsidisation by ensuring well funded scholarships and affirmative action that takes into account the multi dimensionality of deprivation.
Almost all the recommendations of NKC regarding higher education are being debated:
- NKC’s recommendation to privatise higher education has been criticised because:
- It has been pointed out that privatisation will make the chances of getting higher education slimmer for students from lower income groups.
- Private institutions usually are engaged in providing technical or job oriented education only. However all disciplines are now inter-related. Development of one discipline is integrally related to development in other disciplines. Basic sciences and humanities and languages need quality educational institutions too.
- In order to boost private institutions, government institutions will be deliberately allowed to collapse.
- Privatisation will lead to bifurcation of higher education as has already happened in school education.
- NKC’s recommendation regarding setting up of a single higher education regulatory authority has been criticised because:
- In Indian context where several regulatory authorities currently working in higher education have not been very effective, how will a single body able to regulate all higher educational institutions is difficult to imagine.
- It has been recommended that this body should play advisory role only, providing greater autonomy to institutions of higher learning. The question rises how can standards be maintained and quality education ensured if there are no regulatory bodies in higher education.
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